M. A Wyllie.

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the lasses just out from school and college, carrying their
books, walked leisurely up and down under the cool
shades of the trees, talking in little groups and listening
to the music. I cannot say I thought the girls pretty or
well dressed, but that might be due to the school-girl
stage, which has lost the charm of babyhood and not yet
attained to the grace of womanhood ; the youths, on the
contrary, looked a well-set-up race, fair hair predominating.

Continuing our way to the court at the back of the
central building of the University, we came to the two
wooden sheds containing the ships. Looking forward with
pleasure to seeing the second one, which was being put
in position the year before, we felt greatly chagrined at
being told that strangers were not yet allowed in, — "Next
year it might be ready." But things move slowly in
Norway, and it may be still " next year " when we call
again. To console ourselves we revisited our old friend
of Gogstad.

It is eleven hundred years since this old vessel was
built, and one cannot help thinking how little the art of
shipbuilding has advanced since that distant day. Clean


and sharp both fore and aft, yet with a long flat floor,
this stout craft, one would say at once, would be able
to carry her canvas well, and would also sail close to the
wind. Whilst going free or running she must have been
very fast. Clinch-built of oak, with seventeen cut
frames (all grown knees), she was doubtless very strong ;
though, strangely enough, the frames were not bolted to
the keel, but only bound down to the planking with
soft roots.

A great feature is the mast-step, which is cut in a
large block tapering towards bow and stern, and standing
on a stout keelson. There was a long slot cut fore and
aft in a block of oak, shaped like a fish tail, and fastened
to the beams, so that the mast might be easily lowered.
Even to this day the timber round the mast is still called
mastefisk in Norse vessels. Another term which is still
in use, and which dates back to the Viking age, is starboard
(the right-hand side of the ship). For the rudder a great
fan-shaped plank was pivoted on a bolt projecting from the
starboard quarter of the ship, and as the helmsman had his
post by the tiller which ran athwart ship, this side was
given the name of steerboard.

The third strakes from the top are pierced for sixteen
oars aside, and are rather thicker than the others. The
openings are round like the looms of the oars, but small
slits have been cut out sloping aft and upward, so that
the blade might be pushed through the port from inside.
The oars seemed very short for so large a vessel, and
were of spruce, their shape just like those of a man-o'-war
cutter of the present day.

A row of shields hung outside the top strake over-
lapping each other, and painted alternately yellow and
black. These covered the ports when in position, so I
suppose they were raised higher so as to protect the heads




of the roAvers when the ship was under oars. A pair
of sheers Kke the boom-crutch of a modern yacht, but
carved into horses' heads at the upper end, carried the
ridge-pole of the awning, or tjeld, which ran nearly the
whole length of the ship. Some pieces of homespun were
found, which were no doubt remains of the awning.

The rudder, by the way, hung down considerably below
the keel, but it could be triced up by a small line when
the water was shallow ; the draught of the ship was about
four feet, and the freeboard three feet amidships. But
both bow and stern rose much higher, finishing no doubt
with carved dragons. This part of the ship stuck up out
of the mound of potter's clay in which she was buried,
and has therefore perished.

There are no signs of any chafe or wear on any of the
gear. The oar ports are as sharp and clean-cut as if
made yesterday. The lower edge of the keel and stem
is quite square and unworn. I fancy, therefore, that the
vessel may have been built only just before the old Viking
died. She is caulked with a three- thread yarn, spun from
cow's hair, so she must have been meant to float, and
clearly was not put together on the spot where she was
found only to serve as a splendid coffin.

In great contrast to the rest is the sepulchral chamber,
which was evidently roughly built of huge balks of timber,
and covered over with layers of birch-bark. Inside was
the chief himself, with no doubt all his weapons and
treasure, but years ago the barrow was dug into and a
shaft driven right through the old ship's side. The
robbers left everything in confusion, and only a few
scanty remains of peacock's feathers, and gold tissue on
dark woollen stuff, ornaments of gilt, bronze, and lead,
were found, together with the bones of a tall and powerful
old man.


The sagas tell of several such burials, and we may, in
fancy, bring back the scene when the new ship was
hauled up the shore by her crew of grim, fair-haired
fighting men. They sang as they pulled, and told of the
battles they had won, and the distant lands which had
been harried and ravaged, with fire and sword, under the
leader who now lay so calm and still on the bier, dressed
in his richest clothes. Hel shoes shod his feet, weapons
lay by his side, and all his gear was gathered round him,
— everything belonging to the ship, the floor boards, the
copper kettle, plates, spades, and bailers, together with
three smaller boats complete, with rudders, oars, and
spars. It was fitting that the great man should go to
Odin in proper state. Therefore all his horses and
hounds were killed and buried in the clay outside the
ship. Then the whole was covered up, and a great
mound raised over the spot.

In the song of Sigurd, the hero thus speaks his last
words, " Only one boon. Let a wide mound be raised
on the plain, roomy for all who die with Sigurd.
Surround the mound with tents and shields, with foreign
linen finely painted, and with thralls. Burn the
Hunnish one at my one side. Burn at the other side of
the Hunnish one my servants, with good necklaces, two
at his head, and two hawks, then all is equally shared.
Let there yet lie between us a ring- wound weapon, a
sharp-edged iron, as before was laid when we both
stepped into one bed and were called husband and wife.
The shining hall door ring ornamented will not then
strike him on the heel. If my retinue follow hence, then
our journey will not be poor. For there follow five
bond-maids, eight servants of good kin, my nurse, and
the inheritance which Bondi gave to his child. Much
have I told, more would I tell, if fate gave more time for


speaking. My voice decreases, my wounds swell, I told
only truth, now I will cease."

In those days there was no mawkish sentiment as to
the value of human life. The custom was to redden
the mound with blood, and this was done in royal fashion.

Here is another description of the end of an old
Norse chief. " Haki received such severe wounds that
he saw that his days would not be long. He then had a
skekl which he owned loaded with dead men and weapons ;
he had it launched on the sea, and the rudder adjusted
and the sea sail hoisted. He had tarred wood kindled,
and a pyre made on the ship ; the wind blew towards the
sea. Haki was almost dead when he was laid on the
pyre, then the burning ship sailed out to sea. This was
very famous for a long time after." {Vnglinga Saga.)

The eddas and sagas abound with descriptions of
funeral rites and burials, the accuracy of which is most
fully vindicated by the finds. For example : " The first
age is called the age of burning, then it was that all
dead men were burned and bautastones raised over them.
Then the mound age began, when all powerful men were
laid in mounds and all common people buried in the
ground." {St. Okifs Saga.)

But the mounds were dread places to the living,
especially at night where flames were seen to issue and
the ghost walked. When the burning did not take place,
the warrior was buried with his weapons and entire
equipment. Sometimes he slept with his sword under
his head. Angantyr's shoulders rested upon the famous
sword Tryfing, and Arngrim''s sons were buried there in
that manner. Angantyr, however, had not counted on
his Amazon daughter Hervor wanting the sword. A
short time after his death she left by herself in a man's
dress with weapons, and joined the Vikings, and was with

14 hervOr rouses angantyr

them for a while, and called Hervard. A little after the
chief of the Vikings died, and Hervard got the command
of them, and they came to Samsey. Hervard went on
land, but none of her men would follow, for they said it
would not do for any man to stay out there at night.
Walking on, Hervard met a herd-boy, and asked him
about news. He said : " Dost thou not know the island ?
Come home with me, for it will not do for any man to
stay out here after sunset ; I am going home at once."
Hervard replied : " Tell me, where are the mounds of
Hjcirvard.?" The boy said: "Thou art unwise, as
thou wantest to search for that at night which few dare
search for at midday. Burning fires play on the mounds
after sunset." Hervard, as is the way of women, persisted,
and as the sun set hollow noises were heard in the island,
and the mound fires appeared. The shepherd took to his
heels, and ran into the forest as fast as he could, and
never looked back.

As she came to the mound she sang —

" Awake, Angantyr !
Hervor thee rouses,
The only daughter
Of thee and Svafa ;
Yield to me from the mound
The sharp sword
Which the Dvergar
For Svafrlami forged."

She wakes them all — Hjcirvard and Hervard, Hrani and
Angantyr, and reviles them, calling those who lie beneath
the tree roots clad in helmet and mail with sharp sword
and reddened spear —

" Sons of Arngrim,
Much harm doing ;
Much have you
The mound increased. . . ."


Angantyr rises and tries to put her off, and even stoops
to a lie in hopes of keeping his beloved sword, saying
that neither father buried him, nor other kinsmen ; but
the two who lived kept Tryfing. He tries to frighten
her by threats of the mound opening and belching flame.
He sings —

"Ajar is the gate of Hel,
The mounds are opening ;
All the island coast
Looks as if on fire."

But Hervor is dauntless, telling her dead father that
he cannot light any flame that will make her quail.
Angantyr then threatens the mail-clad maiden, telling
of all the awful things that are in store for her in the
future. That she shall bear a son who will be the
mightiest under the tent of the sun. He will wield
the magic sword, and this Tryfing will —

" If thou canst believe it,
All thy kin, maiden, destroy."

Then Hervor threatens the dead champions that she
will weave a spell that shall bind their ghosts rotting
in the mound, unless the sword, the slayer of Hjalmar,
the hater of mail-coats, is yielded to her out of the

The dead chief, after trying more persuasion, at last
tells her that the slayer of Hjalmar lies under his
shoulders, all wrapped in fire, and that there is no maiden
who dares take this sword in her hand : but his daughter
at once offers to hold the sharp maekir, saying that she
does not fear the burning fire, for the flames grow less
when she looks at them. And Angantyr, finding that there
is no way to stay the impetuous lady, who rushes at the fire


with open eyes, at last flings out the sword into the hands
of Hervor. Then she sings —

"Thou didst well,
Kinsman of Vikings,
When thou gavest me
The sword from the mound ;
I think, King !
I have a better gift
Than if I got
The whole of Norway."

The dead chief calls his last warning, that the Tryfing
will destroy all her kin, and tells his exulting child to keep
hidden the slayer of Hjalmar —

"Touch thou not its edges.
Poison is in both, —
This doomer of men is worse than disease."

The mound closes. Then Hervor left the dreadful
plain of Munarvag, and walked down to the seashore,
but when the day dawned she saw that her ships had
sailed away, — the Vikings had been afraid of the thunder-
ings and flames. {Hervarar Saga.)


FROM the Viking's ship we passed on into the
University Garden to the Museum of Art, built
in the ItaHan Renaissance style, and presented to the
town by the Christiania Savings Bank. The hours for
opening public buildings in Norway do not coincide
with our English ideas of lunch at one. Twice we ha,d
thumped on the closed doors in vain, once at ten and
the second time a little after three. Cook's magic key
had opened the door for the bulk of the passengers, but
for a serious consideration of the various works of art
the rushing-through process is quite inadequate ; so we
waited about the gardens till the clock struck twelve, and
decorously entered the open portals of this infant school
in the world of art.

Norway's school of painting is the youngest in Europe.
It belongs to the nineteenth century, and blossomed at a
time when a new view of nature was setting in. Ruysdael
and Everdingen, the two old Dutch landscape painters
whose works are found in the Danish galleries, opened
the eyes of Johan Christian Dahl to the characteristic
and — in an artistic sense — unutilised natural beauty of
his native land. Painting did not burst into Norway as
it did into Holland between 1590 and 1635. It has
never had its Rembrandt and Jan Steen, Vermeer or
De Hooch, Gerard Dou, Ostade, Potter or Cuyp. At


that time good art came, but it is a puzzle to know why,
and also why by 1700 it was practically all over. The
year 1666 saw the birth of Magnus Elisen Berg in Norway,
who stood far and above his contemporaries, but more
as a sculptor than a painter, and more as a carver in
ivory than either. In the antechamber of the princess
in the royal castle of Rosenberg is a recess full of his
wonderful work ; one, an ivory vase, represents the
element water in Rococo style, swans on a floral cup of
water form the knob to the cover. Female figures, with
uplifted arms, make the handles, figures support the body
of the cup, and shells form the base. I wish at the time
I had looked more closely at the portrait of this peasant-
born genius, which hangs up high on the right in the
same room. We have examples of his work in the
royal collections in England, and some are in Vienna.
But none could I find in this gallery, which, of course,
may be an oversight on my part.

It was only after the dissolution of the union with
Denmark that the nation awoke to consciousness, and
asserted its independence in the domain of art. In less
than twenty years a little flock of painters had arisen,
half gods in comparison with the earlier Dutch masters;
but half gods were better than no gods at all. Popular
opinion voted them a true Norwegian school. I differ.
There was no school for artists in Norway. Nearly if not
all were obliged to go for their training to the art academy
in Copenhagen, and from there drifted to Dlisseldorf,
Munich, and Paris. Dahl is the bell-wether of the flock.
Born in Bergen in 1788, he died a professor in the Dresden
Academy in 1857. He has often been called the creator
of the romantic landscape. But in spite of his close
relations with the group of Dresden romanticists, more
especially with the pronounced romantic landscape


painter' Friedrichs, the dreamy view of life and visionary
conception of art of the German romanticism was foreign
to his lively and positive temperament. In reality he
was a wide-awake realist, and there is more true genius
in the stroke of his brush than in that of any other
Norwegian artist of his period. Although he lived at
a distance from his native land, he never ceased to
glorify its picturesque beauty, and returned, again
and again, to Norway to make studies and gather

To this period belong Fearnly, a painter of decoratively
idealistic landscapes ; Knud Baade ; J. C. G. Frich,
some of whose best works, of beautiful parts of
Norway, decorate the palace of Oscarshal ; and Johan
Gorbitz, who displayed considerable talent as a portrait

The next generation, who appeared in the forties, con-
tinued their labours on German soil, where the historical
genre picture and representations of national life became
the field par excellence of the Dusseldorf painters'
endeavours. The school had not been in existence many
years before a heavy atmosphere weighed upon its pro-
ductions. It shrunk into a naiTow-minded reaction
against the high-flying, idealistic endeavours in the art
of the earlier generations. At the same time, it degener-
ated into a colouring that was chiefly a rechauffe of old-
gallery art, quite as insipid in its lukewarm sweetness as
in its motley magnificence.

Constable's talented productions in modern landscape
were unknown to the artistic development of Norway.
No reflection of the brilliant colouring and imaginative
glow that romance, at this time, was throwing over French
art was visible. The French revolution of 1848 helped
matters in so much that it drove the flock of Norwegian


artists home. The most prominent personahty among
the painters, who were under the influence of the
Dlisseldorf school, is Adolf Tidemand (1814-1876), not
so much on accouut of his artistic talent as because he
was the first Norwegian figure painter worthy of mention.
Those who feel interested in his works can study his series
of pictures of Norwegian peasant life that hang round the
dining-hall in the palace of Oscarshal. From this gallery
I have chosen to reproduce his picture of the old man
reading the Bible, " A Solitary Couple." It has an old-
fashioned look about it, if it is permissible to call any
work of art old-fashioned. As I studied it I felt as
though I had opened a trunk of my grandmother's clothes,
and was looking at a dress of a bygone period, — shall we
say, early Victorian ? The material is light, soft to the
touch, and a little faded. The lace is most carefully
stitched on, the whole emitting the faint smell of a
bygone day. In this picture the aged bondi, in knee-
breeches and large-buttoned waistcoat, sits reading a
heavy-clasped Bible to his sweet-faced old wife. The
light from the window on the old man's white hair forms
a fine contrast to the dark-painted panelling. The
interior is worked up most minutely. The carved corner
cupboard and dresser, the looking-glass and table, are all
painted so that it would be quite possible to make real
ones from them. The old lady sits listening, her hands
devoutly crossed, dressed in the national costume. The
gold-embroidered cap and embroidered vest, the little
saucer-shaped gold ornament, all are recorded most
faithfully. " Nice in feeling, isn't it ?/' my companion
remarks as we pass on. It is just this nice feeling
that made Tidemand's art exercise considerable in-
fluence upon Norwegian development in culture ; not
alone in art, but in poetry and music as well, thus turn-


ing the gaze of strangers upon the people to whom he

Hans Gude, who frequently collaborated with Tideniand,
for a time kept up the traditions of the Dlisseldorf school.
Under changing circumstances of life and various influences
he worked his way out of its weaknesses, and found fresher
and more personal forms of expression. In Dlisseldorf,
Carlsruhe, and Berlin he was surrounded by a crowd of
pupils, Scandinavian and German, who learnt to ap-
preciate his ability, noble disposition, and sincere

Herman August Cappelen is the first to cast off the
German yoke. The Sam Bough of his day, he painted
the " Dying- out of a Forest," great bare rocks with
blasted and riven fir trees, gnarled stumps, against a dull
grey sky, a romantic if fictional piece of scenery. He
left behind him a large collection of capital open-air
studies, freely and broadly painted in a dark and un-
assuming colouring, that had nothing in common with
the old school.

In the sixties, Dlisseldorf ceased to be the art centre
of Norwegian painters. It had played itself out. Carl
Sundt Hansen, for a short period of his career, worked
on German soil, after which he went to Paris. He is the
only worthy follower of Tidemand as a painter of peasant
life ; but the life he portrays is melancholy to a degree.
Betrayed maidens, or young couples standing by the
coffin of their child, are not inspiriting to hang on a wall.
Life is sad enough in itself without our being reminded
of some of its bitterest pangs.

Passing these quickly by, we stopped before "The
Condemned Man's Confession." Not that this was
any brighter, but it seemed to illustrate a gruesome little
story we had read by Bjornson, In the picture a


minister is reading to a manacled prisoner, who sits
listening with his hand over his face. Behind stands an
armed warder, who looks as though he only acted in this
capacity on rare occasions. The whole is worked up
with the same minute detail as the story of the village
murder that must have taken place in Bjornson's school
days ; no one but a boy could have seen what he did. He
tells how the inquiry was held in the schoolroom of the
parsonage, for there was no court-house, and indeed the
school had to serve as prison too. " They came in two
boat loads from Molde : the dean, the bailiff, the
military escort, and the condemned man. . . . And
then the silence afterwards. People whispered as
they moved about the rooms and out in the yard,
whence they looked down upon the school-house prison
where the steady light burned. Schoolmaster Jacobsen
was sitting there now with his friend ; they were singing
and praying together. . . . Peer's family came in the
evening in a boat, went up to see him, and took leave of
him. . . . The execution had to take place at a cross-
road, and there was only one in the neighbourhood,
namely, of Edsvaag, nearly seven miles away from where
the murder was committed. The bailiff headed the
procession, then came the soldiers, then the condemned
man, with the dean on one side and my father on the
other, then Jacobsen and my tutor, with me between
them, then some more people, followed by more
soldiers. . . . The sheriff stationed himself directly in
front of the place where some planed boards were laid
over the grave. At one end of it stood the block. . . .
Peer Hagbo knelt below on the step with his face buried
in his hands, close to the feet of his spiritual adviser. . . .
The dean was of Danish birth. . . . His addresses were
beautiful to read, but one couldn't always hear him, and


least of all when he was moved. . . . The points of his
tall shirt-collar, which reached to the middle of his
ears . . . stuck up on each side of the bare-cropped head
with the two double chins beneath, and the whole was
framed between his shoulders, which by long practice he
could raise much higher than other men. , . . One thing
alone we all understood : that he loved the pale young
man whom he had prepared for death. The young man
then shook hands all round, and placed himself by his
friend Jacobsen. The latter knew what this meant.
He took off a kerchief and bound Peer's eyes, while we
saw him whisper something to him, and receive a
whispered answer. Then a man came forward to bind
Peer's hands behind his back ; but he begged to be left
free, and his prayer was granted. Then Jacobsen took
him by the hand, and led him forward. At the place
where Peer was to kneel Jacobsen stopped short, and
Peer slowly bent his knees. Jacobsen bent Peer's head
down until it rested on the block ; then he drew back
and folded his hands. All this I saw, and also that a tall
man came and took hold of Peer's neck, while a smaller
man drew forth from a couple of folded towels a shining
axe with a remarkably broad thin blade. It was then
I turned away. I heard the captain's horrible ' Present
Arms'; I heard some one praying ' Our Father.'"

Here we leave the story. The little lad never forgot
the terrible ending. All along he had pondered over the
words of the unfortunate girl who had been done to death.
She with her dying breath had said, " They mustn't do
him any harm." Conceive the boy's horror when he heard
the dean say to his father and mother that, before
receiving the Holy Communion in prison, Peer had said

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Online LibraryM. A WyllieNorway and its fjords → online text (page 2 of 23)